Ethan Allen’s Reason The Only Oracle of Man, or a Compenduous System of Natural Religion (Bennington, Vt: Haswell And Russel, 1784). A Critical Edition with an Introduction and Notes
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Reiner Smolinski
Dr. Mark Noble
Dr. Paul Schmidt
In 1784, Ethan Allen (1738-1789), the leader of the Green Mountain Boys and legendary Revolutionary War hero, solidified himself as America’s premier deist author. His treatise, Reason the Only Oracle of Man, sought to undermine the reign of New England’s ecclesiastical zealots. In his work, Allen borrowed thoughts and arguments from the leading minds in Europe, thereby transmitting the European Enlightenment to the American Republic a decade before Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason. In his opus, Allen formally introduced Deism as a response to the undemocratic principles of the Congregational Church. His work served to discredit the ecclesiastical foundations throughout New England. Allen, mentored by a family friend, the Reverend Jonathan Lee (1718-1788), in preparation for the formal education at Yale, later found companionship in an itinerant doctor, Thomas Young (1731-1777). Lee, hired by the Allen family, laid the groundwork for Ethan Allen’s endeavors into the divinity. Meanwhile, after Allen’s hopes of going to Yale were dashed by his father’s untimely death, Ethan and Young discussed common debates from the European Enlightenment while reading the works of Isaac Watts and John Locke. What began as simple notes in a commonplace book became Allen’s outline of revolt against the encroaching ecclesiastical domination. Reason the Only Oracle of Man focuses upon many topics central to the European Enlightenment: substance and matter, formation versus creation, immortality, the soul, the nature and motives of prophecy, and time and eternity. Allen’s upbringing in an anti-Calvinist home, paired with his understanding of the major ideas from the European Enlightenment, culminated into America’s premier deist text.
Kolenda, Benjamin, "Ethan Allen’s Reason The Only Oracle of Man, or a Compenduous System of Natural Religion (Bennington, Vt: Haswell And Russel, 1784). A Critical Edition with an Introduction and Notes." Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2023.
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